An all-new model in 2005, the Honda Ridgeline enters 2006 with only a new maintenance minder.

Built alongside the Pilot SUV, the Ridgeline pickup truck shares the Pilot’s V6 and five-speed automatic transmission, but uses a body and frame that is almost entirely exclusive to it. Honda claims it has a bending rigidity two and a half times stiffer than any body-on-frame compact truck, with a rear torsional rigidity that is more than 20 times stiffer. It helps gives the truck excellent road manners, with no squeaking or bending on rougher roads. Everything about this truck is smooth and civilized – its ride, its engine, its transmission – with the possible exclusion of its offbeat styling.

The Ridgeline comes exclusively as a four-door, five-passenger vehicle, and while it isn’t meant for really heavy-duty work, not many of its competitors get all that dirty in the real world either.

The five-foot bed is made of a composite material designed to fend off scrapes and dents, and it has notches in the front wall so dirt bikers can carry two motorcycles to the rough stuff. An ATV will fit in it, too. Because of its independent rear suspension, there’s room for a 240-litre waterproof, lockable trunk under the bed floor (it will carry three golf bags). A sliding tray holds the spare tire. The tailgate is dual-action, swinging down or to the side.

The Ridgeline uses Honda’s VTM-4 four-wheel-drive system; unusual for a pickup truck, it’s primarily front-wheel-drive, with torque sent to the rear wheels on acceleration or when needed for extra traction.

There’s plenty of storage space inside as well, with a nifty multi-function console with hidden storage areas, and rear seats that provide underseat storage when down, or that can be lifted up for more cargo space.

The Ridgeline comes in three trim levels. The base LX includes air conditioning, 17-inch steel wheels, power locks with keyless entry, variable intermittent wipers with automatic heated zone, power windows, power rear sliding window, cruise control and CD player with six speakers.

The mid-line EX-L adds 17-inch alloy wheels, auto-off headlights, leather heated seats with eight-way power driver’s seat, Homelink garage door opener, leather-wrapped wheel, automatic dual-zone climate control, rearview mirror with compass, and six-CD system with seven speakers. A sunroof can be added for an additional $1,200.

An EX-L Navi package adds a bilingual voice-recognition navigation system, MP3 media auxiliary jack, and power sunroof.

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